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Recovery Strategy for the Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) in Canada

Executive Summary

Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) is an understory tree of moist, eastern North American forests, woodlands, and talus communities. In Canada, it has been confirmed as extant in 21 locations in two broad regions within the Carolinian Life Zone of southern Ontario: 1) Essex County and the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and 2) Niagara, including the cities of Hamilton and Burlington. Only 10 sites have five or more individuals. This species' range is contracting and its numbers are declining. In 2000, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) designated Red Mulberry as Endangered because of its small and declining number of mature individuals (under 250) and its fragmented population.

Red Mulberry is threatened with extirpation by the non-native and more aggressive White Mulberry (Morus alba), with which it freely hybridizes. Other significant threats include habitat loss and fragmentation, disease, which is often facilitated by various stress factors, and the impacts of nesting Double-crested Cormorants. Threats posed by other exotic species and grazing by White-tailed Deer and snails are of lesser concern.

The recovery of Red Mulberry is believed to be technically and biologically feasible. The population and distribution objectives for Red Mulberry are to maintain all currently existing populations of the species across its Canadian (Ontario) range and to prevent further decline in the number of individuals across the species' range. These objectives will be revisited once new information becomes available, particularly as genetic work confirms the total number and location of pure Red Mulberry trees in Canada. The Red Mulberry Recovery Team has been actively working to protect and recover this species since 1998. Recovery will be achieved through critical habitat protection, habitat restoration, population enhancement, protection and restoration of genetic integrity, management of the impacts of nesting Double-crested Cormorants and grazing species, community support and stewardship, monitoring, and enhancing knowledge and understanding of the species.

Knowledge of the existing Red Mulberry populations, their demography, population dynamics, pollination distances, habitat requirements, stress factors and disease needs to be updated. Efforts need to be made to locate previously undocumented trees and/or populations. Genetic testing of trees for hybrids and Morus murrayana and monitoring the results of White Mulberry removal and Red Mulberry enhancement activities, and the changing nature of the resulting populations is also necessary. A population viability analysis is needed, as is an understanding of the factors that will increase the success of Red Mulberry establishment.

This strategy identifies critical habitat range wide on public and private lands to the extent possible with the information that is currently available. The approach includes protection of a tree root zone area plus intervening forest, woodland, and talus habitats between trees 999 m or less apart. Biophysical attributes of critical habitat are defined and examples of activities likely to result in the destruction of critical habitat and their effects are outlined. A schedule of studies lists additional work necessary to complete critical habitat identification in Canada. Progress toward recovery will be assessed in five years according to the performance measures identified. One or more action plans related to this recovery strategy will be completed by March 2018.